Canada fire rages for seventh day, pushes away from town

May 07, 2016, 3:28 PM EDT
A massive wildfire rages Wednesday evening, May 4, 2016, near Anzac, Alberta, a hamlet 48 km southwest of Fort McMurray.
(Source: Premier of Alberta/flickr)

A wildfire ripping through Canada's oil sands region looked set to grow rapidly as it entered its second week on Sunday despite cooler weather and light rain, but move further away from heavily populated areas, a fire official said. The fire, which started near the town of Fort McMurray in northeast Alberta, spread so quickly that the town's 88,000 inhabitants barely had time to leave.

The front of the fire was moving southeast, writes Reuters, away from Fort McMurray toward the neighboring province of Saskatchewan, said wildfire information officer Travis Fairweather, but was not expected to reach the border on Sunday. While there were some communities near the fire, they were not in its path, he said. Winds of up to 60 kph (37 mph) were fanning the flames, but there was a chance of rain and cooler temperatures later in the day. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported ash fell in parts of Saskatchewan. An Alberta government statement issued on Saturday night said the fire had consumed 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) - an area the size of Mexico City - and would continue to grow. Fort McMurray is the center of Canada's oil sands region. About half of the crude output from the sands, or one million barrels per day, had been taken offline as of Friday, according to a Reuters estimate.

No deaths or injuries have been reported, reports the BBC. The provincial government has declared a state of emergency and will provide C$100m ($77m) in cash to evacuees. More than 1,000 fire fighters and 150 helicopters, 295 pieces of heavy equipment and 27 aircraft tankers have been deployed, according to the Canadian government. Despite the evacuation order, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said they found an elderly man and a family of five in Fort McMurray. They were led to safety.

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